WHEN they came to Scotland, many had little or no English and all had to learn new ways to live in a brand new country.

Now members of the Women’s Empowerment Project run by Glasgow Afghan United (GAU) reveal how it’s helped change their lives for the better.

The women spoke out recently as the situation in Afghanistan changed rapidly. We are sharing their words because, amidst all the anxiety and stress many of us now feel, there is support available and there are ways for Afghan women to stand up strong.

Members of the group include women of all ages, most of whom are mothers. All are working to build a secure and successful future in their adopted home of Glasgow.

Our Women’s Empowerment Project is completely unique and provides a safe and culturally-sensitive space for members, who face multiple barriers to employment and education, to open up, make friends and thrive. All leaders are women and multiple languages are spoken.

It covers everything from fun-filled days out to Scotland’s best places to English classes, mental health and wellbeing sessions, art workshops and sports lessons. 

Earlier this year we held a cross-cultural International Women’s Day event standing firm against sexism and discrimination and championing women’s rights around the world.

Now the group also provides a vital network allowing members to support each other as massive change sweeps across Afghanistan, bringing with it concerns for loved ones still living there. Members are able to converse in their first languages and share information.

Member Maniza commented: “When we newly moved to Scotland from Afghanistan, we used to miss our country, family and friends. By attending the project regularly, we don’t feel lonely or isolated, we feel connected to our values and cultures and friends.

“Throughout lockdown it has been a lifeline for so many Afghan women including myself. It has helped us during the most terrifying and unprecedented times. I have learned how to stay positive in challenging times.

“The project gives me confidence by knowing that I am not alone, and I have friends to talk to if I need them at any time. I know that if I need any help, I could get in touch with the project. I would like to say a big thank you to everyone working in the project and everyone who has funded the project.”

Fellow member Maryam said: “I have been living in this country for many years and I have several good Scottish friends, but I really wanted to be able to speak Farsi, my first language. Joining the Women’s Empowerment Project has helped my social life a lot. We cooked and shared, had fun, played sports, played tennis, held language classes and participated.

“These classes build women’s confidence. I am very happy – it gets better day by day.”

A GAU spokesperson said: “Glasgow Afghan United stands against all forms of division and prejudice and is dedicated to building strong, stable, safe communities.

“We know that when women are lifted up, whole communities are lifted up. Afghan women in Scotland are strong, they are skilled, they are capable, they are powerful and they are assets to this city and this country. But they can face barriers of language, poverty, culture, religion and more and GAU is working to help overcome these and ensure all members have the support they need during good times and bad.

“We love Scotland just as much as we love Afghanistan. Both countries share beautiful landscapes, cultures and traditions. With the support of the Women’s Empowerment Project, our members are working with neighbours and friends to build the peaceful, positive lives we all want and deserve.”